In the immediate aftermath of the disappearance of Jesus Christ's corpse which had been placed in a sealed tomb following his death by crucifixion, a rumour began to circulate that the disciples of Jesus had stolen his body in order to perpetuate the myth of his resurrection.
Fear of this malevolent gossip about a risen saviour prompted the Jewish leaders to request the tomb be sealed and guarded by centurions. Three days later, the seal had been broken, the stone had been rolled away from the entrance and the tomb was empty.
So far we are in accord with the Biblical narrative. However in the film Risen, Joseph Fiennes stars as a tribune named Clavius who is assigned to find the body of the so called Messiah. Clavius witnessed the death of Jesus, and was certain the rumour of theft was true...until he began to investigate the alleged crime.
He meets and interviews a number of Jesus' followers and is troubled by how they present themselves and defend Jesus. One day, following a lead from a spy, Clavius locates the home of one of the apostles. He bursts in and finds Jesus' inner circle there. He also sees Jesus. This moment in the film is pure gold, The man Clavius saw die and be interred, who set his own Roman seal across the entrance to the tomb, sees Jesus alive and well. To say he is surprised would be the biggest understatement in history.
Flavius then travels to Galilee with the disciples where Jesus appears to them again. Aside from the presence of tribune Clavius which is mere speculation, the film goes back to the story as presented in the Bible. One evening, Clavius has some time alone with Jesus who asks him what he is searching for. Jesus offers some suggestions: certainty? peace? And then he drops another bombshell by repeating Clavius very own words about what his hopes for the future were. A day without death. Hearing his own words from Jesus' mouth almost brings the battle hardened tribune to tears.
At times I felt the film was a little pedestrian, (the odd collection of accents was off putting, and there were some very ordinary acting performances) but in the two aformentioned moments I was really moved, emotionally. These were very powerful scenes, and I thought Fiennes did a great job of portraying a man who didn't know what he was looking for until he found it.
Everyone is looking for something. Countless people throughout the centuries have found their search ended when they met Jesus. The day I met Jesus, for example, my search for meaning in life was terminated. I know exactly who I am, why I am here and where I am going. I know this because Christ is Risen.
Risen is now available on Netflix.